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Deductible Expenses for a Sole Proprietorship

When you earn a living from operating your own business as a sole proprietorship, you will report your income taxes much differently than an employee does. The Internal Revenue Service will still expect to see your business income on a 1040 form, but unlike taxpayers who are employees, you will first report the income from your sole proprietorship on a Schedule C, or Schedule C-EZ. One of the more substantial benefits of filing Schedule C is that there is a long list of business expenses you can deduct that will reduce the amount of income taxes you owe.

Deductible Business Expenses

As a sole proprietor, only your net profit reported on Schedule C is subject to income tax. Net profit is equal to your total revenue minus all business expenses you incur in the sole proprietorship. To be deductible, each expense you report must satisfy the “ordinary and necessary” requirement stated in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). A business expense is ordinary, and therefore deductible, if it’s an expense that similar businesses commonly incur. Necessary, on the other hand, has a broad definition in that the expense only needs to be helpful to your business – but it doesn’t have to be essential. No exhaustive list exists, but some of the expenses that are commonly deductible in a sole proprietorship include commercial rent payments, the cost of advertising, equipment leases and purchases, as well as supplies and wages you pay.

When to Deduct

Not all deductible business expenses are entirely deductible in the year they are incurred. The Internal Revenue Code has a separate category of expenses referred to as “capital expenses” that must be deducted over a number of tax years. These costs commonly relate to the acquisition cost of business assets, improvements you make to those assets and start-up costs you incur before starting the sole proprietorship – all of which have useful lives of more than one year. However, certain types of assets you purchase for the sole proprietorship may qualify for a Section 179 election – which allows you to take a full deduction in the year of acquisition rather than multiple depreciation deductions.

Deducting a Home Office

Many small business owners choose to operate as small proprietors rather than create a separate legal entity for the business. This decision can be beneficial if you operate the business out of your home since the IRS allows you to deduct a portion of your housing expenses. To qualify, you must utilize a designated area of your home regularly and exclusively solely for business purposes. This means that your home must be the principal place of business of your sole proprietorship, or be the place where you regularly store inventory or meet with customers. If eligible, you can deduct the “business percentage” of your total housing costs. The business percentage is the ratio of square feet you use for business purposes to the total square feet in your home. Some of the expenses include in your total housing costs include rent payments, depreciation on your home if you own it, real estate taxes, mortgage interest, utilities and repairs.

Business vs. Personal

Since there isn’t any legal separation between your sole proprietorship business and your personal expenses, you’re personally liable for the debts of the sole proprietorship. And these debts always include payments for income taxes.

Schedule C Instructions